UAAP Finals: Desiderio transformed '16 Strong' to UP Strong

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Dec 05, 2018 09:49 PM
UAAP Finals: Desiderio transformed '16 Strong' to UP Strong
Paul Desiderio will always be the team captain who led UP in its magical UAAP Season 81

The University of the Philippines system is composed of eight campuses nationwide.

Those eight campuses speak five languages and yet, in the UAAP 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament, they all had one battlecry.

“Atin ‘to,” they said as they clobbered De La Salle University and claimed their first Final Four berth since 1997.

“Atin ‘to,” they said as they went back-to-back against Adamson University to climb to their first Finals in 32 years.

“Atin ‘to,” they said even as they faced off against heavily favored defending champion Ateneo de Manila University in the championship round.

Even though State U was forced to settle for a runner-up finish, that remains their best showing since 1986.

And all of this, because team captain Paul Desiderio willed it into existence.

“Never give up talaga kami lagi. Ang problema namin dati sa UP, nilalamangan kami tapos nawawalan na kami ng gana at tuloy-tuloy na yun,” he told reporters after he played his last game in maroon and white on Wednesday. “Happy ako na nabago yun. Ngayon, laging sinasabi ng teammates ko na ‘Atin ‘to!’”

That “Atin ‘to” from last year became “16 Strong” this season.

And indeed, it took all 16 players – Desiderio, Bright Akhuetie, Diego Dario, JJ Espanola, Javi Gomez de Liano, Juan Gomez de Liano, Will Gozum, Janjan Jaboneta, Jarrell Lim, Pio Longa, Jun Manzo, David Murrell, Jerson Prado, James Spencer, Jaydee Tungcab, and Gelo Vito – as well as the coaching staff so that UP could have for itself a long-awaited, much-wanted breakthrough.

Now it has just that, those eight campuses will never forget the player who was at the forefront of it all.

“Sobrang happy ako dahil nakaabot kami sa championship. Sayang nga lang kasi ‘di namin nakuha yung championship, pero hopefully, next year,” he said.

He then continued, “Yun naman talaga e, ine-expect ng mga tao na next year, dapat malampasan nila yung nagawa ngayon. Kaya para sa akin, next year (naman) ang babawi sa amin."

Even though their skipper will now be moving on in his career, the Fighting Maroons will always believe that a place in contention is “Atin ‘to” and will always use “16 Strong” to stay there from now until the foreseeable future.

Again, all of this, because team captain Paul Desiderio willed it into existence.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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